Letter: Not just semantics

To the editor:

Titles from Sunday’s front-page, “Quakes linked to fracking; now what?” and online, “Kansas quakes likely caused by oil and gas fracking process” are inaccurate, and it is not just a matter of semantics. A correct headline would be “Kansas quakes likely caused by saltwater disposal process.” To solve any scientific problem, it must first be defined in a technically precise manner. Otherwise the investigative process becomes muddled and inefficient. The probable root of the increased earthquake activity is the disposal of much larger volumes of saltwater than in the past, not hydraulic fracturing (fracking) — period!

The reporter got it right in stating that scientific studies in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas concluded that “temblors were likely the result of injecting saltwater into disposal wells” and in quoting Rick Miller, Kansas Geological Survey senior scientist, “there is a strong correlation between the disposal of saltwater and the earthquakes.” Horizontal wells with multi-stage hydraulic fractures (technologically new to Kansas) produce much larger quantities of both oil and saltwater than vertical wells. Saltwater is disposed into other wells, as in the past, but in much larger quantities than in pre-horizontal well days.

It would behoove us all to be truthful and accurate in framing the issue. We should also encourage public and industry scientists to quickly determine how (or whether) we can minimize earthquakes by either modifying the saltwater disposal process or by reducing the volume of water produced (and injected).